Weaponizing Cultural Fascism: How Tourism Enabled the Fascist Myth for the Contemporary Far-Right

By Bryce Greer

Vice’s report “Inside Spain’s Fascism Fandom” is eye-opening in the portrayal of Francoism in the contemporary period. Shocking the most was the inclusion of Chen, a Chinese immigrant and Franquista, who after being asked about how he, as an immigrant, would have been treated under Franco’s regime, replied: “Of course. In Spain, in Franco’s time, nobody lived badly.” On the contrary, Franco’s regime saw the use of violence, repression, and assisted in the use of concentration camps, executing immigrants and other marginalized communities that did not fit in his nationalist picture for Spain. It is clear, then, that the contemporary far-right sees a spectacle of 20th century fascism that acts as a veneer over its atrocious histories. The fear should be spread to such idea of a weaponized cultural fascism, one deep-rooted in its use of tourism.

Justin Crumbaugh noted that in the 1960s, the Franco regime restyled itself around its economics, attempting to project a positive identification onto its government. After being one of the few remaining Fascist leaders, this restyle came through the form of consumerist tourism, one that created an impression that it took a collective Spanish population to develop. Hence, tourism created a sense of a Spanish identity, the economic boom led to the soft dictatorial rule, and yet still fascist. Its combination of tourism to information, through films, newsreels, etc., led to a popular appeal to the Franco regime, one that brought Spain to its rightful glory. The created Spanish myth of an economically stable Spain across all classes was brought forward by tourism, yet the beaches of Spain did not look the same as the common village on the regime’s margins. Clear then, was the weaponizing of tourism alongside the culture of fascism to create a sense of a good past, one that leaves the contemporary with a nostalgia to the regime’s claimed glory. Fundamentally, Crumbaugh left me wondering about the margins, but perhaps the similarities to Nazi Germany’s Strength Through Joy (KdF) can answer it.

While Chen claimed that “you can’t put Franco together with Hitler” and that they have different stories, I found the same narrative he holds nostalgia for in Franco’s regime had similar popular appeal in Nazi Germany’s KdF. In its own form of tourism, KdF created the impression of a harmonized class and a united racial community for Germans. Through photographs, and by using undercover surveillance, KdF was able to give to the desires of the working class. On the local level, however, the complaints saw the marginalized communities continue to suffer. There was disunity in social statuses with class tension revealed through the different attitudes given to KdF tourists as opposed to private tourists. Yet, as an organization, it survived through its interplay with propaganda, like the Franco regime.

In the end, I am still left wondering how tourism became used by fascist groups to create a now contemporary nostalgia, however, to explain people like Chen and other far-right individuals, stability through the fabrication of tourism can easily create a spectacle in belief of a return to what they would call “good.”

Works Cited:

Shelley Baranowski, Strength through Joy: Consumerism and Mass Tourism in the Third
Reich (Cambridge, 2004)

Justin Crumbaugh, “Prosperity and Freedom Under Franco: the Grand Invention of
Tourism” in Destination Dictatorship: the Spectacle of Spain’s Tourist Boom and the
Reinvention of Difference (SUNY Press, 2009)

Vice International, “Inside Spain’s Fascism Fandom,” Vice. YouTube (Sept. 17th 2020). Accessed at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sqKSXPiGe7U

One Reply to “Weaponizing Cultural Fascism: How Tourism Enabled the Fascist Myth for the Contemporary Far-Right”

  1. Bryce,

    The Vice video was certainly a shocking watch as you mentioned, and I agree that Chen’s claims were baffling and absurd, and speaks to the cognitive dissonance and denial that seems to prominent within right-wing groups. Ranging from outright denial of facts (such as Holocaust denial), to simply rewriting past events (such as Chen’s explanation of Franco’s Spain), these tactics are closely connected with your claim of tourism/propaganda in both Spain and Germany. By painting their countries, societies, and histories in a positive and false light, elements such as the KdF help propagate the fascist machine.

    -Willem

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